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Fish caught sustainably
Several species of salmon are available in cans, packed with protein and Omega-3s, as well as calcium, vitamins, and selenium. Of the two most popular varieties, sockeye and pink, sockeye has a better nutritional profile and more appealing orange-red color, so it’s our first choice, even though pink is less expensive.
Caught by methods that limit by-catch of other species in very short seasons to prevent overfishing, Wild Planet’s Alaskan salmon is a solid choice at a good price point. The company is particularly transparent about its sustainable practices and explaining why they make the choices they do.
It's widely available at major grocery chains, and you can also buy it in cost-saving cases of 12. The 6-ounce cans with pop-top lids are easy to open and portioned for use in meals. It makes great salmon patties, chowders, and casseroles.
People like that this canned sockeye salmon is wild-caught and is flavorful right out of the can.
Best Natural with Bones/Skin: Pure Alaska Salmon Think Pink Wild Alaska Pink Salmon Traditional Pack, 7.5 oz., Pack of 12
Contains nutritious skin and bones
Great flavor and texture
Some may not like soft bones
The Alaskan salmon fishery is 100 percent wild-caught and certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which determines guidelines for sustainability, so it’s always a good bet to choose a product that contains all Alaskan salmon.
Pure Alaska caught our attention because it processes fish within hours of catching it, and the traditional pink salmon has a fair price for its quality. The company won a Good Food Award in 2018 for its sustainable practices.
Pink salmon actually cooks up tan or grey, much like albacore tuna, which it resembles in both texture (small flakes) and taste, especially when the salmon is boneless and skinless. But when the processor cans salmon in the traditional manner—cut in steaks with bones and skin still on the pieces—pink salmon is especially high in calcium. The bones don’t need to be removed, as they crumble into tiny bits, but the grit and appearance may lack appeal.
Pure Alaska’s website, which tells the story of the fishing family who has owned the company for decades, encourages consumers to “be brave and embrace those skin and bones”—and many reviewers agree.
Skin and bones offer extra flavor and nutrition
Unclear whether fish is packed in water or natural juices
This large can of bone-in, skin-on salmon is made from wild Alaskan pink salmon like many others, and it’s perfectly edible: mild and submerged in a considerable amount of juice. In fact, many reviewers love the nutrition and flavor the skin and bones offer. The price point is low, and cans are larger than those available by smaller processors, so this option may be good for families on a budget.
However, it is unclear whether the fish is packed in water or in natural juices, and the quality is a step down from some of the premium brands, according to our research.
This brand edged out its bargain competition because of the Trace My Catch feature code on the can. Our can listed “the Alaska Salmon fishery” as the source of the salmon. It was caught by a purse seiner fishing vessel, and then shipped to a cannery in Thailand after initial processing. The cannery itself is located in Thailand, resulting in a “Product of Thailand” label on the can, though the fish are caught in Alaska. The website outlines the mechanized canning process.
Using the code was tricky; the website says to use all the numbers, but we succeeded only when eliminating some numbers.
No salt or fillers added
Fresh flavor out of the can
Hearty, chunky texture
May be too bland for some
Sustainable seafood journalist Paul Greenberg advocates buying canned salmon over tuna for both health and environmental reasons, including issues with mercury in the fish. Though mercury accumulation is not nearly the problem it is in most canned tuna, salmon can contain trace amounts of mercury. To ease the concerned consumer’s mind, Safe Catch states it tests every fish for mercury, and it has the “lowest mercury limit of any brand,” which appears to be a “30X Stricter Mercury Limit than the FDA.”
Partnering with the American Pregnancy Association, Safe Catch emphasizes its measures to ensure a safe product: no BPAs in the can material, no fillers or additives, no GMO-soy broth, and no precook processing. The fish are skinless and boneless, sustainably caught by MSC certified fisheries in Alaska, according to the website. The canning is done at a facility in Thailand.
Customers give this canned salmon high marks for its fresh, high-quality flavor right out of the can, and that it comes in large chunks. A few, however, say it was a bit bland for their palate.
100% wild sockeye salmon
Great for camping or on the go
Pouch holds less volume than a can
Silver retort pouches are gaining in popularity for shipping shelf-stable cooked fish. They are lighter than cans, which make them convenient for emergency kits, hiking, or picnics where their portability and easy opening would be valuable. Unopened pouches last without refrigeration at least four years, according to the manufacturer. SeaBear offers bulk purchasing of pouches, too.
SeaBear has been operating in its own smokehouse and cannery in Anacortes, WA, since 1957. The sockeye is premium quality and 100 percent wild, but note that SeaBear buys fish from other sources in the Pacific Northwest than Alaska, likely Puget Sound near its facility.
It is packed without skin and bones, lightly flaked, and flavored with only a bit of sea salt. The fish is cooked in its own juices in the pouch, then vacuum-sealed. At 3.5 ounces, the pouches hold considerably less volume than a traditional can, which equates to roughly a single serving portion.
People like how convenient these pouches are for camping or taking on the go. They also praise the salmon's flavor, with one customer adding that it has just the right amount of salt.
Flavorful and flaky
Great for those with sodium-restricted diets
Puget Sound fishery isn't MSC-certified
A family-owned operation with headquarters in the Seattle area, Loki has been in business since 1979. They catch wild pink salmon in Southeast Alaska and Puget Sound with a small number of boats with gillnets, which allow for quick retrieval and the freshest fish. Though the Puget Sound fishery is not MSC-certified, the company asserts that the pink salmon have healthy runs.
The skinless and boneless, salt- and oil-free pink salmon wins points for its high quality and taste, which is flavorful enough not to miss the salt. It would be great for those on a sodium-restricted diet or in any convenient hot meal. These cans are BPA-free, containing large pieces of flaky fish without much liquid. Harmless white “curd” atop the fish indicates a high level of protein.
Clean, non-oily flavor
Easy-open tab lids
Not for those who like skin and bones in their salmon
The five Nuu-chah-nulth nations acquired majority ownership of St. Jean’s, a family-owned seafood company in Canada, in 2015. With a history of over 100 years, St. Jean’s operates from a facility in Nanaimo, British Columbia. These canned wild sockeye are perfect for consumers wanting to support fishing heritage and First Nations.
Fresh fish are skinned, deboned, chunked, and hand-packed with a bit of salt into BPA-free cans with easy-open tab lids, then cooked once in the can during the pressure canning process. Nothing else is added, so you can be sure it’s gluten-free and without additives for a high protein diet. The salmon is harvested from sustainable sources in the Pacific Northwest and processed at the cannery and smokehouse in B.C. Customers love the clean, non-oily taste.
Our top choice is the Wild Planet Wild Sockeye Salmon because it packs a lot of clean flavor right out of the can. Plus, the company is transparent about its sustainable practices. If you want to take the flavor and nutrition of wild sockeye salmon on the go, try the SeaBear Ready to Eat Wild Sockeye Salmon in Pouch.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Food educator Jennifer Burns Bright teaches and writes about Pacific seafood. She packs up her own tuna and salmon on the Oregon Coast, so she knows what to look for in good canned fish.
What to Look for When Buying Canned Salmon
Wild-caught vs. farmed: The first thing you want to look for on the label is whether the salmon is wild-caught or farmed. Wild Alaskan salmon is caught from the Alaskan salmon fishery, one of the safest, most regulated, and sustainable fisheries in the world. Farmed, or "Atlantic," salmon are often given antibiotics and exposed to organic pollutants like PCBs in their feed, and thus may be less safe to consume.
Types of salmon: The two types of wild salmon are pink and sockeye, or red, salmon. Pink salmon is the smallest species and is found in Arctic and Pacific waters. Alaskan pink salmon are considered among the safest to consume and offer benefits such as proteins and carbohydrates, and nutrients such as Vitamins D and B12. Alaskan sockeye/red salmon are larger than pink salmon and offer valuable nutrients like omega 3s, potassium, three types of vitamin B, and more.
Skin and bones: Salmon canned with skin and bones offer more omega 3s and calcium than their boneless and skinless counterparts (and those wary should rest easy as the skin and bones are soft and chewable). The recommended intake of omega 3s for healthy individuals is 250 to 500 milligrams per day, and canned salmon with skin and bones offer three times as much of these fats as the other version. Four ounces of this kind of canned salmon also provide about 20% of the recommended value of calcium.